Front page of Le Figaro, August 4, 1914
|Founded||15 January 1826|
Le Figaro (French pronunciation: [lə fiɡaʁo]) is a French daily newspaper of record founded in 1826 and published in Paris. It is often compared to its main competitor, Le Monde. Its editorial line is conservative. It is also the oldest national newspaper in France.
Le Figaro was founded as a satirical weekly in 1826, taking its name and motto from Le Mariage de Figaro, a play by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais that poked fun at privilege. Its motto, from Figaro's monologue in the play's final act, is "Sans la liberté de blâmer, il n'est point d'éloge flatteur" ("Without the freedom to criticise, there is no true praise"). In 1833, editor Nestor Roqueplan fought a duel with a Colonel Gallois, who was offended by an article in Le Figaro, and was wounded but recovered. Albert Wolff, Émile Zola, Alphonse Karr and Jules Claretie were among the paper's early contributors. It was published somewhat irregularly until 1854, when it was taken over by Hippolyte de Villemessant.
In 1866 Le Figaro became a daily newspaper. Its first daily edition, that of 16 November 1866, sold 56,000 copies, having highest circulation of any newspaper in France.
On 16 March 1914, Gaston Calmette, the editor of Le Figaro, was assassinated by Henriette Caillaux, the wife of Finance Minister Joseph Caillaux, after he published a letter that cast serious doubt on her husband's integrity. In 1922, Le Figaro was purchased by perfume millionaire François Coty. Abel Faivre did cartoons for the paper.
In 1975, Le Figaro was bought by Robert Hersant's Socpresse. In 1999, the Carlyle Group obtained a 40% stake in the paper, which it later sold in March 2002. Since March 2004 Le Figaro has been controlled by Serge Dassault, a conservative businessman and politician best known for running the aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation, which he inherited from his father, its founder, Marcel (1892–1986). Dassault has 80% of the paper.
Le Figaro switched to Berliner format in 2009. The paper has published The New York Times International Weekly on Friday since 2009, an 8-page supplement featuring a selection of articles from The New York Times translated into French. In 2010, Lefigaro.fr created a section called Le Figaro in English, which provides the global English-speaking community with daily original or translated content from Le Figaro’s website. The section ended in 2012.
Controversy about editorial independence
Controversial both inside and outside the newspaper is its ownership by a person who also controls a major military supplier, as well as being a mayor and senator from the Union for a Popular Movement party, whose son Olivier Dassault is a member of the French National Assembly for the same party. In response, Dassault remarked in an interview on the public radio station France Inter, that "newspapers must promulgate healthy ideas" and that "left-wing ideas are not healthy ideas."
In February 2012, a general assembly of the newspaper's journalists adopted a motion accusing the paper's managing editor, Étienne Mougeotte, of having made Le Figaro into the "bulletin" of the governing party, the Union for a Popular Movement, of the government and of President Nicolas Sarkozy. They requested more pluralism and "honesty" rather than one-sided political reporting. Mougeotte had previously said that Le Figaro would do nothing to embarrass the government and the right. Mougeotte publicly replied: "Our editorial line pleases our readers as it is, it works. I don't see why I should change it. [...] We are a right-wing newspaper and we express it clearly, by the way. Our readers know it, our journalists too. There's nothing new to that!"
- Le Figaro (French Newspaper), Encyclopædia Britannica
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- Le Figaro website (French)
- Le Figaro digital archives from 1826 to 1942 in Gallica, the digital library of the BnF